A Brief History of Golf

A man teeing off as his friends on a beautiful, sunny day at the golf course.

Golf courses around the world have different numbers of holes. Even the Old Course at St. Andrew in Scotland, which was the first course to have 18 holes, originally had 12 holes. So, why do golf courses presently have 18 holes? In 1764, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (R&A) decided to shorten the 22-hole golf course to 18 to improve the links between holes and make the game more convenient. The R&A golf club had such a tremendous influence over the golf world that other clubs copied the construction of the 18-hole course. Instead of walking through 18 holes of golf, golf carts save golfers a walk of approximately four miles, helping speed up and improve the efficiency of the game. ANSI/OPEI Z130.1-2020: Golf Cars – Safety And Performance Specifications provides safety and performance specifications for golf cars.

Origins of Golf

Modern-day golf originated from a game played on the eastern coast of Scotland, in an area close to the royal capital of Edinburgh. Players would attempt to hit a pebble over sand dunes and around tracks using a bent stick or club. In an Act of Parliament, King James II (King of Scotland from 1437 until his death in 1460) banned citizens from playing golf and football on March 6, 1457, as it was a distraction from military training. He wanted Scotsmen to instead focus on perfecting archery.

After several more golf bans throughout the 15th century and golf being lambasted as an unprofitable sport, restrictions on playing the game were removed with the Treaty of Glasgow coming into effect in 1502. That year, the game gained the royal seal of approval when King James IV of Scotland (1473 -1513) became the world’s first golfing monarch, overturning the ban from King James II. Thanks to this royal endorsement, the popularity of golf rapidly spread throughout Europe in the 16th century. King Charles I introduced the game to England; Mary Queen of Scots brought the game to France when she studied there. She had helpers carry her equipment; the term “caddie” derives from her French military aides, known as cadets (often the younger sons of the aristocracy).

Developing Rules for Golf

In 1744, the game of golf officially became a sport when the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith formed, who later became the Honorable Company of Edinburg Golfers, the first golf club for the best golfers from Scotland, England, and Ireland.  The club set up an annual competition with a trophy in the form of a silver golf club, and it drafted the first known rules of golf (“ The Thirteen Articles”) for the world’s first “open” golf competition for the Silver Club tournament at Leith Links in Edinburg,  Scotland.

The rules were adopted a decade later for a similar Challenge played at St Andrews. The rules appear on the first page of the St Andrews Golfers’ first minute book and were titled “The Articles and Laws in Playing the Golf.” The first Challenge at St Andrews was played on May 14, 1754; it is now considered the start date of what would become the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (R&A). In 1897, the R&A was given control of the Rules of Golf by the common agreement of the existing club, who were mostly British, and it published the first standardized, “national” rules in 1899. The rules were published in 1900 for American golfers.

Adoption of Golf in America

In 1894, the United States Golf Association (USGA) was formed in New York City to become ambassadors for the game in the states. By 1900, there were more than 1,000 golf clubs formed throughout the United States. For the first fifty years from 1900, the R&A and the USGA operated separately; these governing bodies for rules of gold had different rules for the game with the main difference being the size of the golf balls. Since 1952, however, the R&A and the USGA have worked co-operatively to produce a universal code.

History of the Golf Car

The first golf cart was invented in 1932, when Lyman Beecher of Clearwater, Florida built a rickshaw-style cart for golfers that was pulled by two caddies. Unable to walk long distances, Beecher created this cart to assist him during his golfing sessions because of his arthritis. The initial idea for using an electric vehicle on the golf course was introduced by John Keener (J.K.) Wadley, who noticed on a business trip in Los Angeles that people were using three-wheeled electric carts in grocery stores.

In the 1950s, there was a large surge in golf cart usage after R.J. Jackson, an oil tycoon from Texas, received a patent for a three-wheeled, gasoline-powered cart. This version of the golf cart, however, was not widely adopted by many golfers due to its loud noise and inefficiency. In fact, the original version required a total of six car batteries to complete a standard 18-hole course. Elderly and disabled people who wanted to enjoy golf found them useful, but the majority of golfers remained content with walking the course with their caddies. Thanks to further improvements, over the rest of the 20th century, both gas and electric golf cart models began to proliferate across the United States.

What Is ANSI/OPEI Z130.1?

ANSI/OPEI Z130.1-2020 provides safety and performance specifications relating to golf cars, driven by electric motors or internal combustion engines specifically intended for and used on golf courses for transporting golfers and their equipment. Commonly referred to as golf carts, these vehicles are officially labeled as “golf cars” in the American National Standard because these vehicles are self-propelled, and carts are technically a trolley being pulled by a person.

ANSI/OPEI Z130.1-2020: Golf Cars – Safety And Performance Specifications is available on the ANSI Webstore. To learn more about this standard, check out ANSI/OPEI Z130.1-2020: Golf Cars Safety Specifications.

Present Golf

Currently, there are 34 rules of golf with various sub rules and caveats. The main objective of golf is to hit the ball off the tee (a small peg used for the first stroke) and make it into the hole in as few strokes as possible. The following shots, however, need to be played “as the ball lies,” which is often considered the golden rule of golf. Each golf course consists of 18 holes, the first nine of which are called the front nine and the remaining the back nine. Generally, competitive golf matches are played across four rounds of 18 holes each. The player who completes the entire course using the fewest shots wins. This is called the stroke play scoring format and is most widely used in golf tournaments, such as The PGA.

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